The Birmingham Museum of Art Presents 19th-Century Ikat Robes and Accessories

BIRMINGHAM, AL --(Marketwired - February 23, 2016) - The Birmingham Museum of Art presents a vivid collection of robes and accessories featuring intricate ikat designs in its upcoming exhibition All The Colors of the Rainbow: Uzbekistan Ikats from the Collection of Peggy Slappey. Comprising a range of 62 objects from robes and hats to shoes and jewelry, the exhibition explores the social, economic, and technical history of the complex and varied textile patterns created for items made and worn in Uzbekistan in the 19th-century. The exhibition opens March 19 and runs through July 10, 2016.

"In recent years, ikat patterns have permeated the fashion and design industry, touching everything from clothing and furniture to decorative arts," says Senior Curator and Curator of Asian Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Donald Wood. "Despite its contemporary ubiquity, the ikat tradition has roots that go back centuries and cross many different cultures. The robes you'll find in this collection present a brilliant spectrum of color and design which has not been diminished in the 100 plus years that have passed since they were created."

The word ikat (pronounced 'ee-KAHT') comes from the Malaysian word "menjikat" meaning to tie. A complex dyeing technique, ikat is used to pattern textiles by employing a resist dyeing process in which the designs are established on the threads prior to dyeing. The pattern appears as the fabric is woven and the resulting cloth is often made into garments using combinations of colors. The technique developed independently in several parts of the world, namely South America, Japan, Indonesia, India, and western Central Asia. Uzbekistan is known for producing some of the most striking ikat textiles in the world.

The making of many Uzbekistan ikats begins with the production of silk. Modern Uzbekistan includes many of the great cities of the ancient Silk Road and has been an important crossroad for trade for centuries. Women raised silk worms that were then sold in the bazaars to men, who in turn unwound them into thread that was then dyed and finally woven into cloth. Historically, clothing represented rank and status in the region that is now Uzbekistan. Boldly colored silk ikats were worn by the wealthiest residents while those in lesser positions wore similar robes made of cotton. The robes and accessories included in the exhibition, produced in the 19th century, reflect a wide range of vibrant colors and were used as everyday clothing, decoration, and gifts.

Though the Birmingham Museum of Art has hosted and originated many exhibitions concerning various aspects of Asian art over the years, this is the first to feature pieces from Central Asia.

"We are proud to expand our horizons to include the presentation of work from Central Asia as we exhibit these wonderful Uzbekistan treasures from the collection of Peggy Slappey," said Wood.

An exhibition opening party for All the Colors of the Rainbow will take place on March 18 at 6pm. Special exhibition programming is scheduled throughout the duration of the show. Reference artsbma.org for details.

All the Colors of the Rainbow: Uzbekistan Ikats from the Collection of Peggy Slappey has been made possible by grants from the Robert R. Meyer Foundation, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Lydia Eustis Rogers Fund, the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, and support from the City of Birmingham.

About the Birmingham Museum of Art: Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art has one of the finest collections in the Southeast. More than 27,000 objects displayed and housed within the Museum represent a rich panorama of cultures, including Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American. Highlights include the Museum's collection of Asian art, Vietnamese ceramics, the Kress collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the late 13th century to the 1750s, and the Museum's world-renowned collection of Wedgwood, the largest outside of England.

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Cate McCusker Boehm

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